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How to Make Fine Art Accessible to Kids

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If having teeth pulled sounds like more fun than dragging your kids around an art museum, you’re not alone.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Introducing children to fine arts gradually from a young age in a variety of ways makes the eventual trips to museums much more enjoyable for everyone.

The importance of visual arts in childhood development is well documented. From motor skill development to giving them tools to communicate and boosting critical thinking — exposure to art benefits their emotional well-being, long-term academic success and self-awareness.

Below are several ideas on how to make fine art accessible to kids.

Embrace your school art programs

Our kids have been blessed with enthusiastic and enriching art teachers in their public schools. Their elementary school teacher occasionally offered after-school classes for a small fee, which we tried to take advantage of. The first time we visited The Met in New York City, our son asked us to text his art teacher because she had been the first to introduce it to him through a video she showed in class. We also use their school artwork to decorate our home and offices, as stationery, and as gifts to family members.

Encourage their inner artist

The more directly kids become involved in artistic endeavors, the less foreign the concept of fine art becomes. In addition to encouraging them by displaying the artwork they bring home from school, introduce them to photography, help them observe art in nature, and offer materials and space to create.

Take advantage of local resources

If you have a local art gallery, art studio or college with an art department, these are also great ways to introduce your kids. Our local university regularly exhibits student and faculty work, and my kids enjoy quick trips through the galleries. When my son was young, we also paid one of these college art students for one-on-one lessons. Some of his most prized pieces came from those sessions.

We are also fortunate to have Make.Do. in our community. The studio offers classes, kits and birthday parties, which helps make art accessible to all kids in our community.

Start with Arkansas gems

Although my kids have been privileged to visit world-renowned institutions such as The Met and the Museum of Modern Art, one of the art memories they most fondly recall is the “The Studio” at Crystal Bridges Museum of Natural Art, where they are encouraged to take a break and make their own art. Crystal Bridges is world-renowned for its collection, but it is a great “starter” art museum because its size makes it extremely navigable, and it offers so much outside, including an art trail, which also makes it very kid-friendly. Louise Bourgeois’ “Maman,” a giant bronze and stainless-steel spider with a sac of marble eggs, is collectively our favorite piece of sculpture.

Crystal Bridges is a great destination for kids and grownups, but even if you can’t make it as often as you would like, you can still take advantage of its online resources, including art blogs with ideas for activities at home.

The Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts (AMFA, formerly known as the Arkansas Arts Center) in Little Rock remains closed for expansion and renovation, but I can’t wait to take advantage of this resource when it reopens this spring.

For my birthday one year, I requested a family trip to a Frida Kahlo exhibit there. She wasn’t necessarily everyone’s favorite artist, but they couldn’t complain because it was my birthday present. And I think they actually all enjoyed it!

The AMFA is currently promoting an Art Garden project, described by the museum as “a community-built art installation celebrating AMFA’s grand opening.” The project will include thousands of origami lotus, which will be installed on the museum grounds “to transform the surrounding landscape into a dynamic composition of color, shape and movement,” the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts website says.

The project “invites all Arkansans to take part in the creation of this inaugural event by making their own origami lotus — one of thousands to be installed on the AMFA grounds to transform the surrounding landscape into a dynamic composition of color, shape, and movement.”

What a fantastic way to incorporate all kinds of lessons related to fine arts by truly making it approachable. I know what my kids and I will be doing over winter break!

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April Fatula is student publications adviser and instructor in Harding University's Department of Communication. She lives in Searcy with her husband and three children and dreams alternately of being a travel writer and drinking her coffee while it's still hot.

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